The long-drawn out Brexit vote produced a lot of hot air, dubious claims, exaggeration and a whiff of reality mixed with recrimination, much like a marketing campaign for a new car.
We should not be surprised with the results of any new car’s campaign; the hype is usually eclipsed by the hard facts, the money poured into a launch is very often money down the drain if the car is not up to the job. Few things really change.
But what of the PR operation itself? We are repeatedly told that the UK car market is a money-spinner for the industry with high profit margins where quality counts, or rather perceived quality counts and makes a lot of money for the manufacturers. So why do a number of PR departments get it so wrong?
Every year, motoring journalists get asked to take part in questionnaires, polls or surveys on the industry’s players and the cynical correspondents know those who dream them up are usually on some financial incentive.
Who knows if anyone really considers what the writers think or does a company take part to show some statistical figures to their directors’ board? The pollsters, too, have to keep up stocks of their premier cru.
Polls and votes can produce some unexpected results, as we know of late, and then PR directors or managers have to do an uncomfortable shuffle infront of their bosses when they bomb onto the bottom line.
There was a time when PR departments included a fair smattering of motoring journalists who went over to the dark side and sat alongside seasoned and experienced PR people or engineers who actually went out to meet journalists and took time and trouble to get them what they wanted, news.
Journalism is changing too, from the print dominated days to the seconds in cyber-space inhabited by bloggers and social media, and the PR departments must cater for all. It’s a tough challenge with questionable measuring data.
What is always needed but increasingly rarely provided on a launch or in media packs for a new or facelifted model are a wide selection of right-hand-drive images.
Where or how a journalist or page designer accesses these images is not so important but they must be available, on a stick, on-line, in- the – cloud. Somewhere.
Some manufacturers do a really good job of providing UK-sourced images, others simply cannot be bothered, and it shows. Not all journalists can or do take their own photographs in limited time on a launch so a supply of shots should be available. Some manufacturers will have dedicated snappers eager to bite your hand off if you want something different, particularly if you challenge them to come up with something different to the rest.
A colleague recently went on an event where they promised a wide selection of shots were on-line, but in the event there were just four pictures available with unseasonable backgrounds obviously taken when the cars were still being developed six to nine months earlier. They did not show off the ‘new’ car to its best and it’s obvious the PR department is not the best either.
Perhaps the motto of motoring PR should be “You reap what you sow”. A bit like the Brexit vote then.
Robin Roberts | Charman WGMW
Robin is the longest serving chairman of The Western Group. He’s been vice chairman or chairman for over ten years and oversees the annual Western Group PR Driving Day each summer assisted by the group committee and supported by group members.
He contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.
Robin specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes WheelsWithinWales.uk which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.